Recommendations Introduced To Shipping Operators After The Tenth Fire In The Past 14 Years

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has issued some safety recommendations to the company and managers of the cargo vessel BBC Rhonetal after an inspection of a fire in the hold of the ship at Port Hedland based in Western Australia.

The vessel was alongside at the Port Hedland on 25 March last year when a fire suddenly broke out in the lower cargo hold. This happened in the middle of hot work with a plasma torch to cut the cargo units’ welded sea fastenings for unloading. The fire wasn’t declared extinguished until three days later.

The ATSB’s transport safety examination into the incident found this to be the 10th such fire incident on a vessel the same parent firm has managed over the past 14 years and the fourth case to be inspected by the ATSB, identifying contributing factors.

Cargo Ship Fire
Image for representation purpose only

The ATSB investigation found the crew members had not assessed the risks related to fire before the commencement of hot work, Angus Mitchell, the ATSB Chief Commissioner, said.

Therefore, a continuous fire watch wasn’t maintained, and precautions were not taken to protect cargo from catching fire.

The ATSB found out that the BBC Rhonetal’s managers had not effectively implemented the shipboard’s safety management system processes to stop the fire.

The continuing incidence of fires on the cargo holds of ships while carrying out hot work highlights the imperativeness of adhering to shipboard processes and recognized safe work-specific guidelines for hot work, Mitchell stated.

BBC Rhonetal’s managers have recently advised the ATSB regarding the procedures for hot work and how to amend those to better and further describe the role of the fire watch, emphasizing the crucial role in fire prevention. The fire watch requirements will be integrated into the hot work permit procedure, and additional equipment for the fire watch must be distributed across the fleet.

The company intends to undertake measures to educate crew members on the amended processes and additional equipment, including implementing a video exclusively for training.

While the ATSB considers the safety actions proposed by the ship’s managers for such a case has the potential to address the hot work safety issue, no timeline has yet been provided for the implementation, and the ATSB has issued a formal recommendation to the vessel managers, and the parent firm, Mitchell noted.

A safety recommendation from the ATSB remains open until it has been satisfied and the responsible organization has addressed the safety issues already identified.

The ATSB has been recommending that the ship’s manager, Briese Heavylift, and its parent firm Briese Schiffahrts, take safety actions to ensure that safety management system measures are implemented on BBC Rhonetal and other relevant vessels across the fleets, Mitchell specified.

Ship managers and operators must ensure that their safety management system protocols for hot work are suitable and adequately implemented on board ships. This needs regular verification, so ships’ crew members understand and follow the prescribed safe work practices related to hot work.

References: ABC, Mirage News

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